Brezhnev a “Statesman”?

While paging through a 1980 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary I noticed that the brutal dictator of the Soviet Union from 1966 to 1982, Leonid Brezhnev, was defined/described as a “Soviet statesman.” How crazy is that?

That same dictionary defined “statesman” as “a political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good.” (It also defined it as “one who is a leader in national or international affairs,” but that could apply to any run-of-the-mill politician. The former definition is what’s generally accepted as “statesman.”)

As a cruel, repressive, and egomaniacal leader of the vast prison called the Soviet Union, one wonders how the writers of The American Heritage Dictionary reached the conclusion that Brezhnev was a disinterested promoter of the public good. The dictionary committee, as was common in the literary world back then, probably had not a few admirers of Brezhnev and the Communist way of life.

A quick check of the the 2006 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary reveals that, thankfully, the “statesman” label for Brezhnev has been dropped.